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Oak Bay sailors harness fragile August wind, soar to national title

Consistency pays off for Greater Victoria Yacht Club youth team
Royal Victoria Yacht Club sailors Jessica Hirschbold (crew) and her sailing partner Grace Poole (skipper) with hardware earned at the Canadian Youth Olympic Training Sailing Regatta in Kingston. (Courtesy Jill Fitz Hirschbold)

A pandemic perfect storm turned to a training silver lining for a pair of Oak Bay sailors.

Jessica Hirschbold (crew) and Grace Poole (skipper) of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club were among the winners in the Canadian Youth Olympic Training Sailing Regatta July 26 to Aug. 22 in Kingston, Ont. They were one of the teams from the club chosen to represent Western Canada at the regatta, along with 25 other teams in Canada.

Competing in 14 races over a four-day stretch, the girls held on to first place throughout. They won the mixed fleet Canadian championship (male and female), but also won the top female team and top double-handed team across all classes in the regatta.

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The Canadian regatta was the first competition of calibre since the COVID-19 pandemic started, said coach Stephen McBride.

The weather in Kingston provided some sailing challenges, which the team was prepared for. The venue used to be stable and windy, but this year it was a little more scattered and hit and miss, with a fragile August breeze, McBride said.

There’s a saying that consistency wins regattas, he noted.

“We were able to achieve a lot of consistency by setting up a routine for each day and doing that routine before every race to make sure we knew the conditions and ensure that we were ready to go,” Hirschbold said. “Winning felt quite amazing because even though we were in first for the whole regatta, it didn’t feel real till that last race. We were ecstatic and started grinning and jumping right away after the finish.”

Their training commitment was first rate, she said, and also noted by the coach. While not meeting in person, each sailor worked on her individual skills and fitness. Once the Royal Victoria Yacht Club team could meet again, “not everyone was always there, but they were always there,” McBride said.

“They get along incredibly well and I think they have so much fun doing it,” the coach added.

Other sailors who competed included Josh Jeffers and Julia Morris as well as Tara Golonka and Anja Leikermoser. Kate Sargent and Siobhan Golonka sailed in the FX class.

With the win, Hirschbold and Poole earned a berth in the Youth Sailing World Championships in Oman.

“It would be the biggest regatta we have ever been to, so we are pretty excited to get to represent Canada,” Hirschbold said. The worlds are set for Dec. 11 to 18, so the pair has some time to prepare. They are considering competing in the European championships in Italy next month to practice with a bigger group of boats.

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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